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On the Origin of PCs

By Paul Atkinson

Abstract

The electronic computer is the most significant tecnological product of the 20th Century. It has changed the lives of a vast number of people beyond recognition. It has changed our work, our leisure, and our relationships with each other. Its development has taken place in a period where an increasing amount of information is documented and recorded, and yet elements of its history, particularly its social history are distinct.\ud A number of histories have been written about the computer. Mostly, these address the technical developments and economic or business histories behind the products rather than the designed form of the computer itself. They have tended to view the development of computing from a technologically deterministic perspective. By presenting the computer as the reseult of inevitable technological progress, they have ignored the social agency of their users and the cultural contexts in which they operate.\ud Over the past ten years, i have researched and published on vaious aspects of computing technology from a social construction perspective. Using a novel methodology developed and tested over a significant period, this body of work has considered the acceptance and use of computers by different social groups, exploring the role of a computer as a tool of production, a means of control, and as an indicator of status. It has considered the design form and the depiction of computers in the mass media and popular culture to assess the influences on its design and its role in social relations, and in the process has made an original contribution to knowledge in the field of design history. \ud This submission draws together five published articles from this body of work, which individually trace the history of the conception, production, representation and consumption of different types of computer. Collectively, these articles construct a coherent account exploring the design history of the computer as a social and cultural artefact

Topics: H1, Q1, T1, ZA4050
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:9057

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